29 Nov 2023




Lead Designer, Ultimate

It happens like clockwork, literally the same time every year there’s a sense
of ritual and anticipation for the biggest players in adLand to drop their Christmas adverts. Bigger than adverts, some have become mini films!

Each one jostling for position in our hearts and minds. As consumers we’re hit with so many ads from many different angles and the competition for our attention is fierce. Here’s my personal thoughts on what worked for me for the Christmas adverts of 2023 (I’m a complete sucker for that warm and fuzzy feeling) and what left me a little…cold.

I’ve got to kick off with the biggest name in Christmas Ads – John Lewis and this year’s Snapper: The Perfect Tree. I liked it. The idea of the want for a “Perfect” Christmas tree (I think we’re all warming to the fact that often perfect means dull anyway). Snapper is a venus flytrap, so was set to liven things up from the start! We see Snapper become the best companion for the little boy who grew him. Often his antics leave the family he’s joined a little wide eyed. In true John Lewis style we watched the friendship grow (Impressively in 2 minutes). There were moments of humour, where Snapper nearly eats the family dog and for me, a mini filmic flash back to how I felt when E.T. got taken away from Elliott. In this case Snapper is dragged outside and left to fend for himself. This part left my little boy of 6 pretty much silent! Afterwards he said “that bit…I thought I was going to cry!” So, it definitely connected with him! (I will probably be reminded of that when he comes face to face with the cuddly Snapper soft toy that’s now available!). Lastly, compared to everything else I’ve seen and heard this year, the stand-out sound track from Andrea Bocelli made it feel energised and like something new!


I said I liked it and I really did! The problem was…I wanted to LOVE it!
It got me thinking, so what was my favourite John Lewis ad and why? There’s been so many. For me it was the spectacle of Edgar the Dragon in 2019 and the complete escapism it brought. I was transported to a mediaeval time full of joy and light and met characters I really rooted for. They captured the little girl’s grit and determination to stand by her friend and for me this kind of storytelling oozed Christmas spirit!


So, which Christmas Adverts nailed it for me in 2023?


These Christmas adverts in 2023 all felt true to the brand! They feel connected to what they do and for me that makes it all the more meaningful and all the more genuine.

Apple shook up all the same old, same old and hit me with Fuzzy Feelings!
The film’s beauty is in how they tell the story using a mix of live action film and stop motion animation, paired with an emotive track from George Harrison “Isn’t it a pity”. This ad held my attention the whole way through (It’s close to 4 minutes long!) and I felt compelled to watch again! We see an office worker who has completely fallen out of love with her day job using an iphone and laptop to unleash creativity, and express her frustration by creating an animated world where she takes stuff out on her miserable, grumpy boss. She’s unhappy and undervalued and in her hand-crafted world makes him experience a series of unfortunate events! But when he gives her a small Christmas gift as a gesture she begins to realise he has a heart after all, perhaps he’s just misunderstood. The ending shows a more uplifting and heartwarming scene for the boss as his luck changes in the wonderfully tactile world she has created. As we flip back to live action for the final scene, Apple reminds us that kindness always wins. Charming, thought provoking and definitely memorable. This year Apple nailed it for me!


KFC Christmas Made a statement by sticking to their brand values in the most tongue in cheek way! Their Christmas advert references that customers were eagerly anticipating a KFT (Kentucky Fried Turkey) festive treat. Following a social media build, KFC’s bold reply was to crank up the intensity in their advert with an operatic soundtrack that plays over a KFC Chef preparing what we assume to be the turkey edition. As the tension builds we read…“We saw you. We heard you. And we ignored you”. It positions KFC as masters of integrity. They are chicken through and through and however much their audience wanted them to shift, KFC knows who they are, well enough to be playful with it. That’s how to stand out!


Ikea told a great story in 60 seconds! Take a holiday from the holidays. Everybody knows there are points where Christmas can get a little overwhelming, it’s pretty full on so there’s no surprise it can all get just a bit much at times BUT there’s nothing bleak or bah humbug about this Ad.
Ikea is genuinely keeping it real, as we see people taking 5 to recharge, reset and go again! This advert perfectly connects to the brand and its audience without feeling like they need to think up any new angles, (singing oven gloves was a new one this year!) maxing-out budgets or wheeling out celebrities, it feels about as true as you can get. The sound track is a joy, set to lift spirits and connect with a brilliant concept. Even when you’re hit with product references and prices they’ve managed to make it feel deliberately Ikea and I was happy to let it slide!



Last up is one of the best brand collaborations I’ve seen in a long time that managed to dial up funny moments with its clever use of slapstick and a fully festive soundtrack. Of course Aardman Studios were behind the collaboration between Shaun the Sheep X Barbour with Baa-bour Christmas. With themes of caring for your loved ones (Who all rally round to help the farmer) and a bit of Christmas magic you can extend the life of your jacket as you repair, re-wax or renew your hard wearing Barbour jacket or perhaps this Christmas is the perfect time for that special treat!


I’ve found it inspirational checking out the Christmas Adverts in 2023!
One thing I’m certain of is, strong campaign concepts, simplicity in messaging and making it meaningful, connect every time. For me, the biggest impact comes when the output is really true to the brand, without a doubt that’s what really makes it!

Merry Christmas! Lisa 🙂

At Ultimate we love to create memorable campaigns Creative Campaigns that achieve maximum impact and to build brands packed with personality that always tell a great story! Much like the Christmas Ads all of this needs to resonate with audiences and make that all important connection! Click here to find out more about the amazing campaigns created at Ultimate!